Cutie and the Boxer

(USA, 2013, 82 mins, DCP)
In English & Japanese with English subtitles
FEATURING Ushio Shinohara, Noriko Shinohara, Ethan Cohen
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"Art is a demon that drags you along," says 80-year-old visionary painter Ushio Shinohara in first-time director Zachary Heinzerling’s delicate portrait Cutie and the Boxer, but neither Shinohara nor his supportive wife and fellow artist Noriko are looking for a cure. Heinzerling’s beautifully shot, painfully intimate look at the aging couple’s struggle to survive amid personal and financial strain is both heartbreaking and intricately profound. This is a story about creative desire so strong it hurts.

Heinzerling has chosen the right subject to make that point. Shinohara, a resident of New York’s fine art scene since the late sixties, primarily indulges in a practice known as "box painting," an aggressive technique that finds him hurtling paint-covered gloves across a massive canvas, churning out loud, stream-of-conscious abstractions in under three minutes. Heinzerling first shows us this phenomenal practice in an early long take that establishes the movie’s engrossing style. The filmmaker brings this world to life with a mixture of realism and vivid imagery. Set to Yasuaki Shimizu’s smooth jazz compositions, animations based off Noriko’s drawings and subtle camerawork that explores the crevices of Shinohara and Noriko’s lives, Cutie and the Boxer uses each frame in expressive ways on par with its subjects’ work." Criticwire grade: A

Eric Kohn, indiewire

"Cutie and the Boxer is more than a great documentary. It’s a great film." Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

"A movie that makes you feel less like a spectator than a guest, a friend welcomed into the home of an odd and fascinating couple." AO Scott, New York Times